Friday, June 13, 2014

Who has the real Stone of Scone?

Now that the weather is better we are taking more trips on Saturdays to see much of the beauty of this country.  This trip was to Scone Palace (Scone rhymes with "tune").  The word “Scone” means “small hill”.  Today Scone is still the home of the Earls of Mansfield of the Murray family, but it is also a major visitor attraction.  Fifteen hundred years ago it was the capital of a Pictish Kingdom.  In the intervening centuries it has been the home of parliaments and the crowning of kings.  It housed the Stone of Scone.

This picture is taken from the current entrance to the Scone Palace.  The tour takes one through a few of the rooms downstairs.  The Earl of Mansfield family still lives in part of the Palace.

 Near the entrance to the Palace we saw some Highland cows ("hielan coos" is how the Scots would say this) grazing in the pasture.  Most are a darker red colour but they are sometimes this lighter colour.

 This is the side view of the Palace.  Unfortunately we could not take photos inside the palace.  There is an amazing collection of ivory figurines in a large dining room.  There is one large room along this side that is 146 feet long and about 30 feet wide.  It is still used by the family.
I scanned some pictures from the booklet we bought that tells of the Palace

 This is one of the rooms.  The room below is the long room.  It is the longest room in any of the palaces in Scotland
 The dinning room had an amazing collection of ivory statues.  This is just one of the larger ones.

Scone Palace is near the River Tay and the city of Perth (pronounced “Pearth” by the Scots)  James IV was the last King of Scots to be crowned at Scone in 1488.  With him, the power shifted to Edinburgh and the newly built Palace of Holyroodhouse.

 This is the Stone of Scone...or the Stone of Destiny.  The legends add some mystic of the history surrounding the stone.  The Stone of Scone is surrounded in mystery.  It is a symbol of great power, but has been surrounded by intrigue from its earliest days.  Even the stone's origin is shrouded in legend and uncertainty.  Some people suggest that the stone was Jacob’s Pillow, brought from the Holy Land via Ireland, to arrive at Scone in the 9th century.  Others believe it may have been a royal stone belonging to the Scots from Antrim, or the Picts from the north-east.  It could even have been a Roman altar stone taken from the Antonine Wall.  Wherever it came from, it was certainly in use at Scone as a crowning-seat between the 9th and 15th century.

In 1296, Edward I marched north to conquer Scotland and removed what he believed to be the Stone to Westminster Abbey.  His goal was to eliminate Scotland and Wales and have only England.  There in Westminster he had the stone mounted in a throne-chair were it remained for the next 700 years despite a brief but sensational disappearance in 1950 when a group of Scottish Nationalist students broke into Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day and took it back to Scotland.  After a couple of weeks it was returned to Westminster Abbey where it stayed until finally being brought to rest in Edinburgh Castle in 1996.  Today it is in the Crown room of the Edinburgh Castle.  There is a book, Stone of Destiny, written by Ian Hamilton, the individual who was the mastermind of the stone’s disappearance.

Even today the question still remains:  is the stone in Edinburgh today the real one?  Or, did the monks dupe Edward by handing over a fake all those centuries ago?  If Edward believed he had the real one, why then did he return to ransack Scone abbey again two years later, in 1298?  Many have theories, but the mystery remains…

 This is the chapel or abbey near the Palace on Moot Hill.  One cannot enter the Chapel but only look through the door.  The picture below is what is on the end wall of the Chapel.

This is the main entrance to the Palace coming through a wall and arched gate.  Legend is that a new entrance had to be made because Queen Victoria's carriage would not fit through this gate.

 The Palace is surrounded by a wonderful garden...

The Scone Maze is designed in the shape of the five-pointed star that features in the Murray crest and appears as a motif throughout the palace.  The maze comprises 2,000 beech trees, half of them green and half copper, planted in such a way as to crete a unique tartan effect.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Highlands and Islands of Scotland...(Part 3)

We took so many pictures on our trip to the Isle of Lewis I have divided the trip into sections...this is a continuation of the same trip.  We took the ferry from Uig to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris and then drove to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.  There are very few trees on the island except within the town of Stornoway.

Sunday afternoon after dinner we took a drive north on the island and found a lovely beach.  We are so far north that it doesn't get dark until after 9:30 p.m.

 The island is pretty barren but is very beautiful.  In another coupld of months the brown bushes in the below picture will be beautiful purple.  That is the Scottish heather and the flower is barely beginning to show.  July and August will be beautiful in the highlands.

This is the beach we found...soft sand, very isoloated, and very cold water.

To get to the beach we took this "single track road".  It is about the width of a driveway but as you can see the speed limit is 40 miles per hour.  One just moves along and hope no one is coming the other direction.  We drove the road for about 1-2 miles to reach the beach.   About every 300 yards there was a "lay-by" or a "Place to Pass"

On the way back to the flat we saw this view...these yellow bushes are common throughout Scotland.  They are very pretty against the green rolling hills.

On Monday we took a tour of the Island and came across these Highland cows...or as the Scots would say "Heilan coos".

We stopped at an old mill.  Yes, inside these buildings were an old mill to grind the wheat.  The mill was powered by a water stream that would flow through the mill.

Another beach...the Atlantic Ocean.

 We stopped at a "Black House" village.  These buildings are what people lived in and where the weavers would work to make the Harris Tweed.  All the Harris Tweed is spun and woven on looms like this one...powered with foot peddles.  Even today, all the Tweed is made the same way.  If you look at the label of an Harris Tweed garment, the label indicates that the item is made in the Outer Hebrides.  It is a facinating process...all by hand.  The fabric is woven by hand and shipped all over the world.  There is a board that controlls all the Harris Tweed that is made.  One must pass certain tests to be certified to become a "official weaver".

The Black Houses are heated with burning peat...and cooking with peat.  That is probably why they were called the "Black Houses".  Burning peat is very smelly...much like the smell of burning coal, but worse.  I was surprised how much peat is still used here.  Above is a pile of peat blocks that have been dried and ready for use.  They stack them in these piles...about 4 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 15-20 feet a way that the outer ones keep the inner ones dry.  As we drove around the island you could see the peat fields where they had been digging for the peat.  it is a very interesting process.

 This is a view of the Black Houses.  This village has been restored and there are two buildings that have been modernized on the inside and turned into a "hotel"...if one wanted to rough it.

These are the "standing stones".  Very similar to that of Stonehenge down in England...and just like the English version, no one really knows what they were for.

You can see there was a definate pattern to the arrangement of the stones.  There are 3-4 sites in this area with similar "standing stones" but Callanish is the largest grouping.

One more beach we stopped to see.  This one was the most beautiful.  It was very inviting and I didn't expect to see this type of beach on Lewis.  It was what one would expect to see in Florida...just colder water.

Tuesday morning we took the ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool and headed for home.  We went through Inverness and down through the centre of Scotland.  A beautiful drive.  This was a wonderful trip and all possible becasue we came to Stornoway to teach a Career Workshop...which was successful.